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Does Fibromyalgia Diet = Deprivation?

  [ 25 votes ]   [ 3 Comments ]
By Sue Ingebretson • • August 23, 2014

Does Fibromyalgia Diet = Deprivation?
Does the word “diet” make you cringe? After all, the first three letters spell something deadly. It’s no wonder that a diet is something we feel we should avoid like the plague. Additionally, many who are trying to figure out what to eat to help reduce the pain of fibromyalgia feel another pain instead. It’s called, deprivation.

When it comes to making nutritional changes, do you feel deprived?

Fibromyalgia and food sensitivities go hand in hand like burning buildings and fire trucks. Where there’s fibromyalgia … there are food sensitivities. That naturally means that some foods need to be weeded from the diet in order to create an environment of healing. The most common food-related culprits are wheat/gluten, dairy, sugar, soy, corn, chemical food additives, eggs, artificial sweeteners, and MSG.

In my practice, a vast majority of my clients demonstrate sensitivities to each of these “foods,” with one exception. Some may have problems consuming eggs, others do not. If you’re not sure, about any of the listed items, I’d suggest working with a holistic health nutritionist, a specialist in food allergies, or doing a simple elimination diet at home. That’s how I have determined most of my own food sensitivities.

If you’d like to know more, check out this “What Is An Elimination Diet?” article from Holistic Nutrition Coach and Dietary Consultant, Shirley Plant.

Once you start noticing what ingredients are problematic, you may be surprised to see how prevalent they are in your current diet. Here’s the biggest problem that I see when clients initially begin to address their food sensitivities:

The issue isn’t removing problematic foods.
The issue is that problematic foods make up the majority of their meals!

It’s very common to crave, consume, and consistently eat the very foods that create the most problems for you.

So, if you have sensitivities to the majority of what you eat, what’s left? Does it feel like everything is taken away?

That’s a recipe for feeling deprived.

If you take a look at what you eat most, do you notice that nearly everything comes from a bag, package, box, can, or from restaurants? That’s one clue that the foods you’re consuming may contribute to your health challenges – including pain.

Inflammation-causing foods wreak havoc and create a chain reaction of symptoms. To review more about whole body inflammation and fibromyalgia, you can check out this article – “How Gluten Issues are Connected to Fibromyalgia.”

It’s understandable that removing these foods leaves a vacuum in your everyday meals. But here’s the catch – rather than focusing on what’s perceived as missing, instead focus on what you’re adding.

Here’s what I mean.

The body craves essential nutrients. When the foods we eat are primarily empty nutrient foods (packaged, processed, chemically enhanced, etc.), the body is malnourished. And, how does the body react to malnourishment?


When the body doesn’t find the nutrients it’s looking for in the foods you eat, it’s only recourse is to send out hunger signals for more. It simply wants more and more food.

Here’s What’s Fascinating

When the body obtains the essential nutrients it’s looking for in whole, natural, nutrient-dense and fiber-rich foods … hunger diminishes.

So, what are essential nutrients? The core nutrients the body needs to survive are called macronutrients: healthy proteins, healthy fats, and veggies. (To refresh your memory, revisit this Fibromyalgia Diet article.) When we ADD IN healthy foods, we actually expand our options of foods to eat. We can choose to eat from an abundance of foods rather than a small selection.

Why We Tend to Think Small

It’s common in today’s food culture to practice what I call, thinking small. We limit our daily foods to the same things day in, day out. We stock up at big box stores and buy convenience foods in bulk. Then we slowly but surely power through those packed foods for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, until it’s time to go back to the big box store.

There happen to be thousands of veggie options to try, yet most of America is familiar only with peas, green beans, carrots, and iceberg lettuce. Did you think I forgot to mention corn? Corn is actually a grain, and not a vegetable. It’s also something that’s often featured on the top of inflammation-causing food lists.

When it comes to shifting away from packaged foods toward whole and natural foods, there’s a transition period that can be uncomfortable. Why? It’s because change is always uncomfortable … at first.

Why Change Is Uncomfortable

Most of us simply want to continue doing what we’ve always done. It’s human nature. Therefore, anything that upsets that applecart, can be viewed with suspicion.

Here are objection statements I often hear about making nutritional changes:
  • Finding new foods to eat is hard.

  • Produce doesn’t last on the shelf and goes bad.

  • Organic foods are expensive.

  • I don’t know how to cook fresh foods.

  • My family won’t eat veggies.

  • I don’t like any veggies (or they make me sick).

  • I don’t have time to cook.

  • I don’t have time to shop.

Of course, there are many more to add to this list, and perhaps you have suggestions of your own. In general, most objections boil down to issues of either time or money. They’re always considered in short supply.

I could choose to counteract the above objections with research, client testimonials, and findings of my own that dispute them one by one.

But, that’s not an effective approach. What I’ve found is that we, as a collective fibromyalgia community, need to come to terms with our greatest desires.

Making healthy lifestyle changes needs to become
a burning desire before action can follow.

We can always find reasons and logic to prove that staying exactly where we are makes sense. But, if staying where you are is not working, then what?

Evidence of a Deprivation Mindset

Do any of these tendencies feel familiar to you? Do you often compare yourself to others? Do you find yourself feeling angry at others who’ve met with any kind of health success? Do you find reasons why healthy changes work for them but not for you?

Here’s the biggest question. Do you find yourself focusing on what you do not have rather on what you do?

When it comes to foods, it’s common to focus on lack rather than abundance.

How Successful Change Happens

Education comes first. When we learn more about various topics including nutrition, body movement, stress-management, etc. we begin to change how we think. When we change how we think, then later, we’ll change how we act.

Yes, change is uncomfortable, at first. Most of us – at some point – reach a threshold where we realize we’re more uncomfortable where we are than with the uncertainty of taking that first step of change.

And, that’s how it happens. One small step at a time.

When you’re more uncomfortable where you are
than where you want to be, change happens.

So, I have a few questions for you.

Where is your current focus and where would you like it to be? Do you feel that your food choices are limited? Do you feel that making change is worth the effort?

Here’s an interesting thing about effort. At the beginning of learning anything new, it takes time to develop that new skill. It takes extra focus. Think of how you learned to ride a bike or possibly, drive a car. At first, everything seemed overwhelming. However, with time, practice, and patience, it became second nature.

Changing how you eat isn’t effortless, but it sure is worth the effort! Over time, you’ll find yourself throwing together ingredients and making meals in no time.

When it comes to making healthier food choices – expand your horizons! Eating from the abundance available at your local produce store or farmer’s market not only increases your options, it increases your body’s ability to heal.


Sue Ingebretson ( is an author, speaker, certified holistic health care practitioner and the director of program development for the Fibromyalgia and Chronic Pain Center at California State University, Fullerton. She is also a Patient Advocate/Fibromyalgia Expert for the Alliance Health website and a Fibromyalgia editor for the ProHealth website community.

Her #1 Amazon best-selling chronic illness book, FibroWHYalgia, details her own journey from chronic illness to chronic wellness. She is also the creator of the FibroFrog™- a therapeutic stress-relieving tool which provides powerful healing benefits with fun and whimsy.

Do you know that breakfast has the greatest potential to contribute to your PAIN? Grab your free Stop Feeding Yourself PAIN guide here and learn why!

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Article Comments Post a Comment

Too Tired to Cook!
Posted by: lallerb
Aug 27, 2014
All the information in the article is useful and helpful. However, it doesn't mention the biggest factor for many fibro people - fatigue. I know what I should eat, and when I'm on the upswing I don't have a problem with preparing foods that are healthy. The hardest part is the inability to have consistency due to fatigue and pain. If you are unable to do your own grocery shopping, as I am, you are also unlikely to be able to prepare your own food on a daily basis. I would love to see that added to the mix on how to approach healthy eating.
Reply Reply

Where do fatigue and pain fit into your "diet" plan?
Posted by: MarcieRose
Aug 27, 2014
I agree wholeheartedly with the above commenter. While I don't eat a great deal of packaged food, I do eat my share of pre prepared frozen meals either from Amy's or Trader Joes or that I prepared myself and froze on days when I''m able to do so. Like many fibro patients, my energy is unpredictable. If I'm have one of the more-common-than-not days when I hit the wall at 3:30 PM and literally cannot move another step, preparing dinner is not an option. Yes, I keep salad greens cut, mixed and washed so it only has to go in a bowl. Yes, I have hummus and carrots. But days of these are not the basis of a good diet any more than fast foods are.

Farmers' markets are wonderful. I used to sell produce at them before I became grossly symptomatic, but I am lucky to make it to ours once a month because of energy deficits. And after walking around the market, coming home and preparing what I bought for that night's dinner is frequently out of the question. How about some consideration of energy deficits and pain in your eat fresh foods diets.
Reply Reply

Change of diet = more control
Posted by: dots4x4
Aug 30, 2014
In Feb of this year I realised that something needed to change, and the first thing I focused on was my diet. I went on a 30 day detox where I eliminated all the foods that are common allergens. It was hard, and I did really struggle with fatigue in the beginning, but I am thankful to say that I stuck it through and my pain levels have decreased incredibly. When I ate wheat/gluten products, it felt almost as if they were leeching my body of nutrients. I had to keep eating all the time and I was exhausted. Since the diet change and adding supplements like vit B and guarana, I am feeling so much more alive. Not only because I can make it through most of my days without feeling I am going to collapse wherever I stand, but also because I feel as if I finally have some aspect of control over this FM monster that's trying to bring me down. I am not prepared to let it steal any more from me than it already has, and on the days when I can't cook, I eat raw veg, nuts and biltong(dried beef). I can say first hand that what you recommend in this article can make a huge difference in a FM sufferers life.
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